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Trade group says outdoor re-opening only will keep most pubs shut

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Up to 60% of Britain’s pubs will remain shut if the easing of coronavirus restrictions is limited to outdoor service only, said the industry trade body today.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said while many pubs have beer gardens few have sufficient outdoor space to re-open, with around 29,000 likely to remain closed as a result.

Pubs should be able to open re-fully, inside and out, alongside non-essential retail shops in April, said the trade association.

“Even if some pubs did try to open outdoors only in April, all it would take is some heavy rain and they would find it has all been for nothing,” said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.

“For many pubs, gardens are at the back and the only way to access them is through the inside. And of course, toilet facilities would still need to be provided.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lay out a schedule for an easing of Covid-19 restrictions on 22 February and ahead of that the hospitality sector has been lobbying hard for pubs and restaurants to be allowed to open again.

Tim Martin, JD Wetherspoon PLC’s (LON:JDW) executive chairman said yesterday that unless pubs reopen on the same basis as non-essential shops “Economic mayhem will inevitably follow.”

Young & Co’s chief Patrick Dardis, meanwhile, accused the government of a “lack of respect” for the sector adding the science behind the decision to close the pubs was “unproven”.

A study published today though said that there was evidence that licensed premises were a source of Covid-19 spreading.

In what is said to be the first study in the effectiveness of lockdown measures in pubs in Scotland, the University of Stirling reported: “Potentially significant risks of Covid-19 transmission” were found in pubs and bars across the country”.

Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, director of the university’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, added: “Overall, our findings suggest grounds for uncertainty about the extent to which new rules can be consistently and effectively implemented in a sector where interaction between tables, households and strangers is the norm, and alcohol is routinely consumed.

Stephen Montgomery, from the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), called the paper an “out-of-date witch hunt”.

Pubs and restaurants have been among the businesses hardest hit by the Covid-19, with a net 6,000 pubs shutting their doors for good in 2020 according to the BBPA.

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